2021 Annual Meeting

Higher Education’s Response to This Moment of Racial Reckoning

January 20

1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time

About the Symposium

As individuals around the world were adjusting to the uncertainty and transformation that has resulted from the COVID-19 crisis, longstanding inequities came to the forefront and prompted a global outcry against racial injustice. People rose up in protest in every US state and in more than sixty countries. While not new, the call for racial justice has taken on a new urgency and is having an impact on institutions of all types— including higher education.

The symposium will provide opportunities for all campus stakeholders to come together for sustained discussion of how higher education is—or ought to be—responding to this moment of racial reckoning. How can the role higher education plays in perpetuating inequities be addressed? How can institutions move beyond making statements and act to create meaningful change? How can individual institutions effectively confront their own complex histories? How has the current global climate contributed to the increase in racist and other discriminatory incidents on campus, and what can be done to reverse the trend? How are faculty being prepared to address racism and equity issues in the classroom? What role should student well-being play in institutional change? In exploring these and other related questions, symposium participants will consider relevant research, promising practices, and new strategies for meeting the moment.


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

All Times Listed are Eastern Time

1:00 – 1:05 p.m


Lynn Pasquerella, President, AAC&U

1:05 – 2:00 p.m

Opening Panel, Is Higher Education Meeting This Moment?

Mary Dana Hinton (moderator), President, Hollins University; J. Goosby Smith, Assistant Provost for Diversity & Inclusion, Associate Professor of Management, Co-Director of Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Campus Center, The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina; Marjorie Hass, President, Rhodes College; Eduardo Ochoa, President, California State University–Monterey Bay

2:05 – 2:45 p.m.

Concurrent Sessions

Advancing Racial Equity Through Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) Campus Centers

The events of 2020—defined by the COVID-19 pandemic and by the protests and rallies against racism and brutality around the world—have greatly affected society as a whole. As students returned to campuses for their fall semesters, they not only faced the realities of structural racism, but they are now also witnessing the intersectionality of racism and health disparities. While health professionals are doing their part to identify cures and decrease the spread of COVID-19, who is implementing changes to dismantle the deeply held, and often unconscious, belief in the hierarchy of human value that fuels systemic and structural racism? What is the role of higher education in advancing justice and building equitable communities? Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) is a comprehensive, national, and community-based process to address the historical and contemporary effects of racism and to plan for and bring about transformative and sustainable change. This facilitated discussion will highlight the TRHT Framework and process, including Rx Racial Healing Circles and institutional and community-focused strategies for eliminating racial inequities. This project was launched with the support of Newman’s Own Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Papa John’s Foundation.

Mobilizing Campus Leadership to Support Life-transformative Education at Scale: Making Well-Being and Equity Mission Imperatives

The highlighting of systemic racism globally, within the United States, and on college campuses has hastened the imperative for higher education leaders to connect issues of well-being with efforts to support equity, and to connect both more centrally with the core mission of the institution. This session highlights the effort of a coalition of campus presidents and senior leaders to be intentional about bringing life-transformative education, i.e., types of learning experiences and mentoring that research has shown lead to higher well-being and work engagement throughout life, to every student at scale. By moving well-being and equity initiatives from auxiliary services to part of the central mission, higher education success measures shift from a focus on short-term retention and graduation rates to long-term objectives for students to flourish in their lives and careers.

2:55 – 3:35 p.m.

Concurrent Sessions

Global Learning's Response to This Moment

Prompted by the COVID-19 global health pandemic and this moment of racial reckoning, higher education—and the field of global learning—have been pushed to make changes. While institutions have adapted their programs to reflect this time of limited mobility, it is even more important that students connect globally. In this global context, there is an opportunity for great collaboration to ensure global learning experiences make clear connections between local and international realities and address racial equity and decolonization. Global learning leaders have also engaged with diversity, equity, and inclusion leaders to improve the campus climate for all domestic and international students. This session will address how global learning is changing to address this moment of racial reckoning for local, global, and international experiences.

The Meaning Behind the Measures: What "Counts" as Evidence of Student Success?

With the Varsity Blues college admissions bribery scandal, the University of California System’s decision to drop the SAT and ACT, the challenges with administering AP exams during COVID-19, and the increasingly loud questioning of the value of a college degree, the way we measure students’ potential, their abilities, and their success matters now more than ever. In this session, panelists will discuss the testing ecosystem of college admissions and all the ways we measure students once they enroll. More importantly, the panelists will address the meaning behind these measures and what needs to change to ensure all students’ successes “count” in our conceptions of quality and equity in undergraduate education.

But What About STEM?

Increasingly, higher education leaders are being challenged to depart from spewing mere rhetoric about achieving inclusive excellence and lean into making the powerful, yet inconvenient, changes that are needed to attract and retain more of our nation’s racially diverse students. However, engaging all academic departments, particularly STEM departments, in these changes is often challenging and problematic, to say the least. Providing stronger professional development for STEM faculty is essential in reaffirming the value proposition for higher education, which is consistently being called into question. Recently, AAC&U launched My Tenure Trek®, offered exclusively through the Project Kaleidoscope STEM Leadership Institute. This reality simulation is a powerful professional development tool that provides STEM faculty with real-life experiences that mirror the influences of power and privilege in STEM higher education. A distinctive feature of the simulation includes the opportunity for STEM faculty to assume an identity that represents a race/ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation that is distinctly different from their own. In this session, attendees will explore My Tenure Trek®, learn more about the research AAC&U is conducting to inform STEM faculty professional development programming, and gain a deeper understanding of how professional development for STEM faculty can yield better inclusive excellence outcomes.

3:40 – 4:00 p.m.

Open Discussion and Closing Remarks